Comparative Literature Program - Course Descriptions


Winter Quarter

Dept Course No and Title Instructor
COM LIT 10: Terror
Since 9/11, the notion of terror has come to be associated only with certain forms of political violence and religious extremism. However, terror as a concept has a much longer history, one which is rooted in politics, philosophy and the arts and which is tied to attempts to better comprehend aesthetics and the human psyche. From Aristotle’s musings on theatrical terror as emotional catharsis, through Edmund Burke’s notion of sublime terror in poetry and its relation to the Terror of the French Revolution, to themes of terror and alienation in contemporary Middle Eastern literature, the notion of terror has long joined aesthetics to politics and vice versa. In this course we will therefore explore different conceptions of terror by examining the ways in which its aesthetic and political dimensions interact. Specifically, we will focus on the relationship between terror and literature. How is terror related to reading and writing? How does it function, at one and the same time, as an everyday feeling, an aesthetic effect and a political category? How does the “terrifying” or the “terrorist” define the limits of what is considered normal, or even human, in a given society? Topics may include: terror as catharsis, horror and monstrosity, the relationship between terror and colonization, as well as between terror and gender, revolutionary and sublime terror, terrorism in the era of globalization and oil rush, the case of Israel-Palestine and the War on Terror. Most readings will be available on Canvas. The course requires a midterm and a final exam, as well as regular online quizzes based on readings and class discussions.
COM LIT 60B:  Reading with Theory

Reading With Theory is one of the core courses of the introductory sequence to the comparative literature major/minor. When scholars in the humanities today refer to “theory” they mean something like the twentieth century continuation of a form of questioning begun with philosophy. Theory thus refers to attempts to inquire into why things are the way they are in our world today and/or build new models of how they can be. This course aims to give you some sense of the main traditions in theory that are at the root of important theoretical discussions today. In other words, the course aims to give you the tools to engage with contemporary theorization by showing you where they come from, how they dialogue with, challenge or extend earlier formulations in order to open up thinking about the world and make thinking more conscious and critical. The course will also pair theoretical material with fictional work (videos, movies, literary pieces) that help stage, visualize or extend the theoretical models we will be discussing.

Gabriele Schwab
CL 102W Nuclearism Today
Tu/Thu 12:30 to 1:50
HH 254

Course Description:

In this course we will discuss the legacies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the perspective of various debates about the nuclear threat today, ranging from total nuclear annihilation to limited nuclear war.  In addition, we will discuss the legacies of the Manhattan Project more generally, including the politics of nuclear energy and its uncertain futures.  Starting from the basic premise that, in addition to climate change, nuclear war politics belongs to the major threats to the survival of planetary life, we will also explore its existential and psychological impact.  We will anchor our discussions in close readings of selected literary and theoretical texts as well as art works and documentary film.

1. Larsen/Kartchner, eds., On Limited Nuclear War in the 21st Century (Chapters 1,4,8 and 12)
2. Kate Brown, Plutopia, (Selections)
3. Ward Churchill, “Cold War Impacts on Native North America,” in: A Little Matter of Genocide
4. Helen Caldicott, Nuclear Power is not the Answer, (Selections)
5. Hugh Raffles, Insectopedia, Chapter on Hesse-Honegger

Literature and Art:

1. John Bradley, ed., Radioactive Ghost, (Poetry Selections)
2. Simon Ortiz, Woven Stone, (Essay and Poetry on Uranium Mining on indigenous lands).
3. Svetlana Alexievich, Voices from Chernobyl
4. Cornelia Hesse-Honegger, Insect Drawings
5. Michael Madsen, Into Eternity, (documentary film)
Subsistence is an economic system that produces enough for a community to live on instead of accumulating a surplus. Further, though, subsistence also suggests living light in other ways: for example, preferring temporary solutions and minimizing work. In this class we'll study subsistence practices and subsistence-thinking, both reading about actual subsistence societies such as hunter-gatherer societies and reading and viewing works from various parts of the world that extend subsistence thinking beyond economy to other areas of life. Readings and viewings include James Scott, Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States, activist texts from Latin America, filmmaker Nicolás Pereda's Los Mejores temas (Greatest Hits), minimalist art works, archaeology articles on prehistoric societies, and films by Agnes Varda.
Eyal Amiran
Surrealism and Experimental Drama
CL 140 Winter 2019

Beginning around the late nineteenth century, avant-garde art set out to decenter the human mind--from conscious to unconscious thought, from waking to dreaming, from belief to performance.  Surrealist painting and film, experimental poetry and drama, avant-garde photography, and early newspaper comics were part of this movement.  We will study literature by Guillaume Apollinaire, Francis Ponge, Lautréamont's goth nightmare Maldoror, and Gertrude Stein, visual art and sculpture by artists that may include Hans Bellmer, Leonora Carrington, Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp, Frida Kahlo, Joan Miro, Kay Sage, Yves Tanguy, and Remedios Varo, early comics like Winsor McCay’s Dream of the Rarebit Fiend, avant-garde or surrealist film including Disney/Dali’s Destino, Dali/Bunuel’s Un chien andalou, Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon, Nancy Holt’s Swamp, and Satoshi Kon’s Paprika.  Drama may include work by Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot and Not I), Caryl Churchill, Alfred Jarry, Gertrude Stein, and others.  We will also consider later texts that work in the surrealist and/or avant-garde traditions, including possibly video literature by Kool Keith, William Pope.L, and Hong-An Truong, and Jim Woodring.  Students will write short response papers throughout the quarter.